RECENT REVIEWS
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BEN HARPER AND THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA - LIVE AT THE APOLLO

BECK - GUERO

LIKWIT JUNKIES - THE L.J.'s

M WARD - TRANSISTOR RADIO

DINCO - THE BLACK PIRATE KING JAMES

SAGE FRANCIS - A HEALTHY DISTRUST

JACK JOHNSON - IN BETWEEN DREAMS

RIVIERA REGIME - THUGZ OF WAR

R.A. THE RUGGED MAN - DIE RUGGED MAN DIE

EDO G. & PETE ROCK - MY OWN WORST ENEMY

Thursday, May 12, 2005

ZION I - TRUE & LIVIN' 

Album: True & Livin'
Artist: Zion I
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Why do some Hip Hop groups blow while others don't? I have no idea, and if I did I probably wouldn't be writing about it for free on herohill. But Zion I is one of those groups I thought would have gotten much more attention by now. With their unique, quality production and excellent emceeing, they've certainly got the talent to break out of the West Coast Underground a la groups like Dilated peoples, so maybe True & Livin' is the album that will do it for them. The Zion crew I hails from Oakland California and consists of Amp Live on the beats and Zion handling mic duties. This is their 3rd full length album following their debut, Mind Over Matter, and their sophomore effort Deep Water Slang Vol. 2.

As I mentioned, this is Zion I's third full album and I was a big fan of both of their previous efforts. One big reason for that was Amp Live's production. He's got an eclectic sound that utilizes programmed drums, live instrumentation, and samples to produce a soulful, electro-influenced vibe for the album. He's sort of like a more underground, west-coast JayDee.

Amp knows he's got a very versatile MC to work with, and as a result, he's not afraid to try some things. The Bay uses mainly a sparse track of handclaps and a bassline to provide the backdrop for Zion's ode to his hometown. Soo Tall is a fast paced, bubbling track that sounds like something the Artful Dodger or someone could have done. Amerika is out there, using military-style marching drums with some electric guitar in the background, but it matches Zion's "America as Military State" rhymes.

Zion's the Zion in Zion I, if you haven't figured it out for yourself, and he certainly earns his keep. He's got a cool voice and a tight flow, and as I mentioned, he's got the versatility to tackle tracks that most mc's wouldn't go within a 10-foot dookie gold rope of. And he tackles those tracks with wide ranging subject matter too, which is always a good thing. The aforementioned Amerika and Poems 4 Post Modern Decay take aim at the state of America today, while you can feel the optimism for the future of Zion's people on Luv and Soo Tall. There's also a track for the ladies (Next To U) and a Common Sense/Used To Love Her styled ode to hip hop as lover (Bird's Eye View).

If all that good stuff isn't enough for you, there's some quality guest shots on here: Aesop Rock, Del, Gift Of Gab, and Talib Kweli. If that doesn't get a rise in your indie hip hop shorts then you aren't paying attention. This album has only gotten better so far with repeated listens, so I'd say you'd be wise to check it out for yourself.

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